Friday, May 25, 2018

The Invitations Were Sent

On Thursday invitations arrived to a fundraising dinner for the Historical Society Pearce was hosting at Cre Uisce Aer. It was not a big guest list and everyone on the list had been informed a month earlier to 'save the date'. Bunny opened the invitation as soon as it came in the mail. She was reading it as she walked into the house. Mike was already home preparing steaks for the grille. "Mike, look at this." She held up the invitation.

"What's this?"

"It's the invitation to the Historical Society fundraiser next Monday. Remember, I told you that Pearce called weeks ago and asked us to save the date." She continued to peruse the engraved card she was holding. "Oh, it's formal, black tie for the men."

She handed the invitation to Mike. He read it and looked up at Bunny. "Hmh. I say the most impressive thing is the Phinnigan Coat of Arms embossed in color on the cards."

Bunny looked at Mike, "That? Oh, I thought that was just decoration."

Mike continued salting and peppering the steak."No, the Phinnigan family was an old family in Ireland." He flipped the steaks. "Of course, I am sure the Fitzgerald crest is as impressive."

Bunny, moving on, almost oblivious to what Mike was talking about, started pulling vegetables and greens from the refrigerator. Mike handed her a glass of wine he had poured earlier. "Let's go sit on the porch."

Together they took their glasses and walked out onto the front porch. As they were sitting down, Bunny asked,"I guess I need a long dress for dinner next week."

"A formal one? Yes. No doubt you have a closet full of gowns to wear."

"I do, but I never can figure out what looks good on me."

Mike reached over and gave her a kiss. "I think I can help with that."

"Will you?"

"Of course. But not now."

Together they talked about their days. It was Bunny's favorite time to be on the porch. The sun was setting on the river and cast a magical glow across the lawn at Ivy Lane.

Pearce was excited about hosting the dinner. His mother had taught him how to entertain on a grand scale as well as for an intimate meal, all with her southern style. He was also very proud of how Cre Uisce Aer looked. The restoration was finally finished. When he ran into the Colonel one day in town and found himself in an enjoyable conversation about Gallagher and the all the history of the area. That meeting gave Pearce the idea of hosting a fundraiser.

After setting a date, the Colonel suggested, since Pearce was hosting that he put together the guest list. Pearce offered to handle the guest list as well as the invitations.

When Haynes got his invitation, he immediately called Colleen to tell her about it. "I know you have something to wear. If you don't, let's go shopping."

"What I wear is not the problem. Attending is my issue."

"Colleen, we have already talked about this. I'll be right by your side. Remember, I told you this is when you learn who your true friends are. And, trust me, if there is any problem Bob and Parker are prepared to take care of it."

Colleen smiled to herself. "I never thought of Bob and Parker as my knights in shining armor."

"Oh, they are. I'll pick you up at 6:30 Monday evening. And don't forget we are going to Dot's tonight. I'll pick you up at 6."

They talked a few minutes more then rang off. Colleen took a deep breath. This was it - what she had dreaded for a while. She had to remember she was strong. She could do this. Then she remembered what Haynes had said. If there was a problem, Bob and Parker would take care of it.

The talk at the Tea House was the fundraiser and what everyone would wear. "Oh, I love going to a black tie event. I rarely get to dress up," commented Adair. She added, "I have a dress I got on sale that I have never worn." She took a sip of her tea. "God, I hope it still fits!"

The ladies laughed. "Maybe we should wear long white gloves. I always feel like Audrey Hepburn when I pull mine out of the drawer."

"I don't think long white gloves, a tiara, and loosing 30 pounds would make me feel like Audrey Hepburn," laughed Charlotte.

Dixie, being haughty as ever. "Has any one seen the guest list. I was told it was small - only a select few are invited." She paused and when no one replied, she added, "It is so sad. This is the kind of affair Hayne's late wife, Blair, would have enjoyed." She buttered a biscuit and gently placed the silver butter spreader on the edge of her bread plate. "I know Haynes will not attend. Who could imagine he could be tricked by that  'Colleen'." She paused, "Certainly she will not be there. How humiliating that would be for Haynes."

Charlotte was appalled, as were several other ladies at the table. She spoke up, "Dixie, if you are going to be so ugly about this, perhaps you should not attend to event."

Always wanting to have the last word, Dixie replied, "Well what else can you expect from Haynes. After all look how his son, Bob, turned out."

Stella had also had enough. "Dixie, I don't think I have ever met someone like you. Even if you feel that way, you can keep your thoughts to your self. Do I need remind you who's picture was on the front page of the Afternoon Daily Press."

Most of the other ladies murmured in agreement.

Dixie kept on, "Ella, certainly you agree with me. After all, you remember the days when everyone was proper and knew how to behave themselves."

Ella was offended that she was selected as Dixie's next victim. "Dixie, personally, I think Colleen is lovely. I enjoy her company. After all, it is so nice to see Haynes happy." She paused and laughed, "I just wish I could find someone that would make me that happy." Everyone at the table laughed out loud.

Charlotte spoke up, "My only issue with Colleen, is how regal she always looks. I have never seen anyone as stylish as she is."

Adair agreed,"And worse yet, she can wear anything and it will look elegant."

The conversation continued, although Dixie stayed quiet. 'Stylish?' she thought. What was happening to these ladies?  Most of whom had been raised in fine southern homes, were willing to even speak with Colleen, much less defend her. Why is she still here? Their entire culture was going to Hell, simply because of this Colleen. She wished the woman would just disappear.

Stella considered the conversation, especially 'Miss Ella's' remarks. True she enjoyed Hollis's company but how long would that last. If something happened between Colleen and Haynes - which single man would Colleen's dupe next. Something about her made men comment about her style every time she was around.

Later that afternoon at the Starlight Cafe, Bob and Parker were having lunch. 'Miss' Ella walked in and spoke to them. Both Bob and Parker stood up and asked if she would join them. Ella always enjoyed their company.

After she had ordered, she entertained Bob and Parker repeating the lively conversation from that morning at the Tea House. Needless to say they were both humored and surprised at Dixie's comments. The meal came and the conversation continued.

Parker offered, "I am most surprised at 'Miss' Dixie's comments. Even if she feels that way, why would discuss them with that group of ladies?"

Bob laughed, "Well, all I know is I am pea green with envy when it comes to Colleen's wardrobe. She makes the rest of us look like we are wearing seed sacks. I feel like the second fiddle every time I am around her and Dad. As long as she is around I cannot compete."

Parker added, "Accept it, you may never regain your title of 'best dressed' in town."

At that time, Ella's cell phone rang. She looked at the screen, "Oh, boys this has been delightful but I have to leave now. As she answered her phone, she pulled a ten dollar bill from her purse. Placing it on the table, she mouthed 'for my lunch'.

Parker tried to give it back to her. "Let us get this."

Ella just waved him off, smiled, and walked away talking on her phone.

"She is a piece of work. It is sad she never found anyone after 'Mr. Howard' died", commented Bob.

"Well, there are only so many single men in town and most of those are taken."

They finished their lunch and stood to leave. As they walked out Bob told Walter, "Best burger in town!"

It was about 6:30 that evening when Haynes, Colleen, Bob, and Parker arrived at Dot's. As they greeted Ike, he asked, "Regulars?"

"Yes sir," answered Haynes. "I think we will sit at that table," he said pointing toward a table for 4 on the side of the room.

"Where ever you want," Ike answered as he busily prepared their drinks.

There were a few people in the bar when they arrived. Some they recognized, 1 or 2 they didn't. No one paid any attention to Haynes' group as they got settled at their table.

Ike brought the drinks over, white wine for Colleen, a red for Bob, bourbon and Coke for Parker, and a glass of scotch, neat, for Haynes. They chatted with him as he served their drinks. Bob looked at Ike, "Ike, let me tell you - you were the sharpest dressed at Kathleen's reception. You wear a dinner jacket well."

Ike thanked him and commented about how much fun it had been.

Parker followed up, "Personally, I found the suit you wore at Bunny's wedding very sharp."

Ike just smiled, "For an old man, I try."

He made his way back to the bar and the group took the first sips of their drinks and started chatting. "I think I am going to wear a dinner jacket to the party at Pearce's."

"That's a little much," laughed Parker.

"Well it is black tie."

"Whatever. Since when have I tried to give you fashion advice?"

Haynes shook his head. "Boys, you both know you are going to look sharp, whatever you wear."

"But Dad," Bob said, looking at Colleen,"the bar has been raised once 'Miss' Colleen here arrived. I've got to step up my game."

"Please Bob, really?" Colleen asked faking annoyance. "Okay, would it make you happy to come go through my closet to see if there is anything you want to wear."

"No, dear, that will not be necessary." Bob smiled. "I've got a plan."

Everyone at the table laughed at Bob who continually acted as if he was terribly concerned about Colleen usurping his long held place as most fashionable.

Several friends came in while the group was there. Most stopped by the table to talk. All in all it was a pleasant evening.

Pearce had selected a catering company, well known for their unique menus. He selected special wine from his wine cellar, as well as champagne and craft beer. The gardens were in full bloom, so he engaged Lavenia to come out and use the estate's flowers in arrangements for the dinner.

To make the evening more special, he had cleared all the furniture from the middle of the main hall and living room. In it's place were 7 or 8 round tables, covered in fine Irish linens and set with his mother's sterling flatware. Pearce had found a very good jazz trio, he had once he heard at a club in Mobile. At that time, he had asked them, if he ever needed them, would they come out to Cre Uisce Aer. Needless to say they were more than willing. After all, who could resist Pearce's Irish charm.

As he reviewed his lists and saw how good the house looked, he was pleased. It was going to be a success. Everyone would have an enjoyable evening. Being careful, he knew there must be something he overlooked. But that was not something he could worry about now. Nothing was going to go wrong.

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